One of the most important things restaurant operators can do is provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for their employees. As the name suggests, PPE helps protect employees from cuts, burns, strains and other injuries that may occur in a commercial kitchen.
- Cut-Resistant Gloves. Employees who spend most of their day slicing or chopping food with or operating a meat slicer can protect their hands from harm with cut-resistant gloves. Cut-resistant gloves are made of various materials, each stronger than the next, but even the weakest of materials will provide a minimum of protection against slicing into a person's finger. The worker still needs to exercise caution, however, because some cut-resistant gloves can still be punctured by a knife tip.
- Dish Washing Gloves. Dish washing gloves do more than help prevent prune fingers. They absorb some of the heat from wash water, protecting the worker's hands from burns. Dish washing gloves also protect the hands from abrasive dish washing chemicals or saintizers. Some dish washing gloves are even tough enough to withstand harsher cleaning chemicals and should be used when mixing said chemicals.
- Freezer Gloves. Frost bite is a potential hazard for workers who spend time stocking the walk-in-cooler or freezer. Freezer gloves are the correct PPE to provide for these employees as they will keep worker's hands warm while still providing a sure grip on the food items.
- Kitchen Aprons. A kitchen apron does more than just keep an employee's uniform clean. It acts as an extra barrier between the worker's skin from hot oils, grease splatters and chemicals. However, employees who work with mixers need to take care that the apron strings do not get caught up in the mixer head or rotating tools.
- Oven Mitts. Oven mitts protect workers from burns associated with handling hot plates or platters of food. There isn't much to say about oven mitts, because most people know how to use them. Just make sure the oven mitts are stored near the cooking equipment so employees can easily access them and not have to resort to a bar towel.
Other Safety Products to Consider Beyond simple PPE that workers have to wear to be safe, there are a handful of other products that restaurant owners should consider in order to keep both workers and customers safe.
- Machine Guards. Machine guards are not a piece of PPE that has to be purchased separately; they come with the equipment, but machine guards belong on this list because they protect employees from dangerous gears or blades. Fortunately, most pieces of modern kitchen equipment will not operate unless the guard is in place. Kitchen managers need to train employees on how to properly operate the machinery with the guard in place regardless, because safety devices can sometimes be circumvented. » Learn More about The Importance of Machine Guards in the Commercial Kitchen
- Non-slip shoes. The floors in a commercial kitchen can become slippery, either from food and oil spills or from water splashes in the dish washing area. Either way, all restaurant employees should have non-slip shoes to help provide sure footing. Also, make sure the shoes have closed toes to protect feet from hot liquid spills or falling objects.
- Service Mats. Like non-slip shoes, service mats also provide sure footing in the commercial kitchen. These rubber mats can be placed in high traffic areas, like on the cook line or in front of the commercial dishwasher. The service mats are made of rubber, too, which gives employees a softer surface to walk on and protects feet, ankles, knees and hips from strains and sprains.
- Wet Floor Signs. Wet floor signs protect both workers and customers from slip and fall hazards associated with liquid spills or recently mopped floors. Anywhere the floor is wet, there should be a wet floor sign to warn customers and workers of the hazard.
The Importance of Education
Regardless of which pieces of PPE a particular food service establishment needs, the most effective method for preventing injury is proper education. Teach employees how to use their PPE and the proper ways to operate pieces of commercial kitchen equipment so they know what is safe and what is not and are more confident in their jobs.